Aspects of behavioural ecology on captive feral goats (Capra Hircus L.) with emphasis on the mother-offspring relationship : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Ecology at Massey University
A 10-month study of the behaviour of a herd of 60 captive feral goats (Capra
hircus) was carried out at the Ballantrae D.S.I.R. hill country research station in the
lower North Island of New Zealand from April 1990 to February 1991. The primary
aim of the study was to describe the mother-offspring relationship over the first
three months of the kid's life and to investigate sex differences in maternal
There was no significant sex difference in the mother-offspring spatial
relationship, however, it was found that twins remained closer to their mothers
during the first three months. There were small sex differences in the frequency of
suckling in single kids only, but other variables of suckling behaviour including total
time spent suckling, and the duration, initiation and termination of suckling were not
significantly different between the sexes. Total suckling time, suckling duration and
frequency, mother initiation and kid termination all decreased with kid maturation.
There were significant differences in all suckling variables between single and twin
kids.Sexual differences in kid birth weight, and growth rate, were also highly
significant. Discrepancy in the proximate measures of parental investment made it
difficult to conclude whether sex-biased maternal investment occurs in feral goats.
Further investigation is required to determine the accuracy of suckling behaviour as
a measure of maternal investment.
The second part of the study involved the construction of diurnal activity
budgets for adults and for kids over the period 0830 to 1630 hours. The percentage
of time spent grazing was greatest during the mating season whereas in the gestation and kidding season a larger portion of time was devoted to rest. Female
kids spent more time grazing and less time playing and resting than male kids up to
the age of three month. Time spent grazing was greater in single than in twin kids.
The time allocated to different activities changed significantly over the first three
months of age.
In the third part of the study, the social events following the introduction of a
new entrant to the herd was investigated. Exploration was the most common action
of herd members toward the new entrant. A peak of agonism occurred within the
first hour following the introduction of each new entrant then decreased rapidly. The
response of the herd was influenced by the dominance status of the new entrant, and
the season of the introduction.